- Pub. Date:
- Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
|Publisher:||Chicago Review Press, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||11.00(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.56(d)|
|Age Range:||6 - 12 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Music, Dance, and Drama Activities for Kids
By Lisa Bany-Winters
Chicago Review Press IncorporatedCopyright © 2000 Lisa Bany-Winters
All rights reserved.
The History of Musical Theater
William Shakespeare filled his comedies with music. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, the fairies sing and dance for their fairy queen. French playwright Molière also included songs in his plays. In A Doctor in Spite of Himself, the doctor prescribes "a song with a merry note, and a dance with a lively step" to cure some of his patients. Later Molière worked with composer Jean-Baptiste Lully to create comedy-ballets. These were some of the first known dramas that included music and dance, although they were not quite what we would call musicals today.
Musicals came about as composers began to parody or poke fun at opera. They lightened the mood of the music and changed its style to be similar to popular music of the day. The Pirates of Penzance, which hit Broadway in 1879, was one of the first musicals.
In the 1920s, Tin Pan Alley, a district of composers and publishers of popular music in New York City, was the hot spot for American musicals. Many songwriters, including Irving Berlin and George Gershwin, created musicals in these publishing houses.
In 1927 musicals began to take on all sorts of themes, both comedic and serious. Show Boat was the first musical that had songs that actually moved the plot forward, a breakthrough for telling stories in musical theater style.
The term musical was shortened from the term "musical comedy," but it now refers to dramas as well as comedies.
In 1960 the first rock-and-roll musical hit the stage. It was called Bye Bye Birdie, and told a story similar to what happened when Elvis Presley was drafted. It also includes a grown-up love story that follows the standard "boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl" back plot of earlier musical comedies. Many rock musicals have since followed.
Today Andrew Lloyd Webber and others continue to add to the wealth of musical theater. Many actors say that live musical theater is where they began, and it is still their favorite venue. Musicals continue to be a favorite among theatergoers, especially young people.
Three or more players
In ancient Greece and even in Shakespeare's time, the chorus was not a group of people who sing songs together in a play as we use the term today. Instead, the chorus was one actor who often told the audience what was about to happen in that scene. This was because there were few surprise endings in early theater. Playwrights wanted the audience to know the story before they watched the performance. Since they didn't show very much violence on stage at that time either, the chorus would also tell the audience if someone was hurt. Another job of the chorus was to announce the passing of time, so the audience would know if the next scene happened years or only moments after the previous scene.
This is an improvisation game that shows the job of the chorus before the invention of musical theater. Improvisation (also known as improv) is a style of acting where you create, without any advance preparation. Here the chorus tells the story before the other players act it out; but, because this is improv, the players don't know in advance what the chorus will say.
Choose one player to be the chorus. The other players will be actors. The chorus steps out and says what will happen in the first of three scenes. Because you are improvising and not using a script, the chorus makes up what will happen. The actors have to listen carefully. After the chorus finishes explaining the scene, the actors act it out. The chorus then explains scene two, and the actors act it out. Next, the chorus explains scene three, and the actors act it out.
This exercise can be used for playwriting and other creative writing because it teaches the concept of beginning, middle, and end, and lets you see the story you are making up.
Here is an example of how this game might go.
Stephanie is the chorus. Joe and Charlie are the actors improvising the scenes. Here is an example of what they all might say.
* * *
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the story of a duck and a bunny. The duck is very sad and lonely. He has lost his quack. His bunny friend hops all over trying to find it.
(becomes the duck)
I'm so sad. I've lost my quack. Listen.
(HE tries to quack, but nothing comes out.) See?
(acting as the bunny)
Don't be sad, my duck friend. I'll find your quack.
(HE hops around while saying)
Has anyone seen a quack? No? Oh, where can it be?
In scene two the bunny comes back to the duck. He has found all sorts of sounds, but none of them is a quack.
Duck! Duck! I think I've found what you're looking for. Here it is.
(opening his mouth wide)
That's not my quack. That's a moo. That belongs to Mrs. Cow.
Oh. Well, don't worry. I think I've got it. Is this it?
(opening his mouth wide)
No! That's not my quack either! That belongs to Mr. Pig.
I've got one more. This has got to be it.
(opening his mouth wide)
That's not it either! That's Señor Sheep's! We'll never find my quack.
The bunny went off searching again, determined to find the duck's quack. While he was gone, the duck heard something coming from a raspberry bush. A raspberry was saying "quack." He ate the raspberry and got his quack back. When the bunny returned, exhausted, the duck made him a raspberry pie.
I hope Bunny finds my quack soon. Wait, I think I hear something. That bush is quacking! It's not the bush, it's this little raspberry.
(HE eats the raspberry.)
That was tasty.
(opening his mouth wide)
Quack! It's my quack!
(opening his mouth wide again)
Quack! I've got it back!
Well Duck, I've looked everywhere, but I could not find your quack.
(opening his mouth wide)
You've got it! Where did you find it?
It was in a raspberry. I ate the raspberry and it came back.
To think I looked all over the forest and it was right here. Speaking of raspberries, I sure am hungry after all that looking.
You're such a great friend. I'm going to make you a raspberry pie.
* * *
Musical Theater Terms
Here are some commonly used theater terms and their definitions.
Act A long part of a play made up of scenes. Most musicals have two acts, referred to as "Act I" and "Act II," with an intermission (see definition) in the middle.
Actor Anyone who acts. Can apply to both male and female performers.
Audition Tryouts for a play. The director usually watches a short performance, such as a monologue (see definition), dance, or song, in order to select actors to play each role.
Ballad A song that tells a story or a sentimental song sung at a slow tempo.
Bio Short for biography, a paragraph about each actor and staff member who is part of a play's production. Bios appear in the program.
Blocking Charting out the movement of stage performers. Indicating where each actor stands and moves onstage throughout a play.
Broadway The New York City theater district.
Callback A second audition. After the initial auditions the director may narrow down a smaller group of actors she wants to see again. The callback audition helps the director make her final decisions.
Cancan A French dance that usually involves lines of high-kicking dancers; often used in musical theater.
Choreographer The person who stages and blocks (see definition for blocking) dances.
Chorus A group of people who sing or dance in a musical, but have few lines to say. This is the modern definition of this term. (See Chorus Game for the original definition of the chorus term.)
Dance captain A staff person (often from the dance chorus) who is in charge of rehearsing the dances after the choreographer has staged and blocked them.
Director The person who stages all the movement onstage (other than dance), develops the concept for the play, and casts the play.
Duet A song for two singers.
Encore A song at the end of a show done because the audience has applauded so much that the performers would like to perform for them one more time.
Intermission A break in the play between acts, giving the audience a chance to stretch or get refreshments, and the stage crew a chance to change the sets.
Jazz dance A style of dance that involves moving hands and legs independently, with the pelvis as the center of movement. Keeping the hands wide and walking low and with wide steps are some of the movements characteristic of jazz dance.
Libretto A musical script that includes lyrics.
Modern dance A style of dance using free movements and dramatic expression.
Monologue A speech given by one character in a play. Often used in auditions by actors.
Musical Originally short for musical comedy, but now refers to all musicals, whether they are comedies or dramas.
Musical Director The person in charge of the music elements of a musical, including directing the actors in their songs and working with the orchestra.
Off Broadway A theater located in New York City, but not in the Broadway theater district, and having less than 300 seats.
Operetta Meaning little opera. It's usually lighter than an opera and includes some talking.
Score Sheet music showing the singing and instrument parts of a play.
Opening Night The first night of a play's production run. Sometimes called press night because this is the night the press is invited to see the play and review it for the newspapers.
Preview Performances before opening night, usually sold to the audience at a lower cost than tickets during regular-run performances. These performances give the director a chance to see the audience's response to a play and to make changes or adjustments if needed before the press opening. When George Gershwin's musical Porgy and Bess first previewed on Broadway, it ran for four hours. It was shortened by about an hour before opening night.
Showstopper A big production number in a play that is popular with the audience. The name comes from the audience applauding for so long that the show has to be stopped until the applause dies down.
Syncopation A rhythm that emphasizes the off beat. The rhythm is shifted so that the beat that is normally softer is stressed and the beat that is normally stressed is weak.
Tap dance A dance performed with taps on the dancers' shoes.
Understudy An actor who learns one or more parts in a play and is ready to perform in case another actor gets sick or is unable to perform.
West End The London theater district.
Four or more players
The job of the director is most easily done when the actors listen and pay close attention to her. She tells them where to go onstage and helps them decide how to say their lines. This game helps actors get used to listening and following directions. Players can give directions to one another and see what happens when everyone falls, walks, or freezes at the same time.
Begin with a short list of standard directions. Here are some ideas.
Begin with all players walking around the room. At any time, one player calls out a direction. As soon as the player calls out the action, all of the players (including the one who called it out) follow that direction until another direction is called. Try to work together so that only one direction is called out at a time. Here's an example.
Caroline, Julie, Amy, Josh, and Dante are walking around.
* * *
(Everyone freezes. Everyone stays frozen until CAROLINE speaks.)
(Everyone walks. Everyone continues to walk until JULIE speaks.)
(Everyone falls and stays on the ground until DANTE speaks.)
(Everyone gets up and runs until AMY speaks.)
* * *
After you have played with just five predetermined directions, try playing the game with any directions you can think of. Listen carefully because the players can call out anything they like. Here are some ideas.
* Roll over
Evita and 1776 are musicals based on actual events in history. 1776 tells the story of the American Revolution and the fight for independence. Evita is about the life of Maria Eva Peron, Argentina's very popular first lady from the 1940s and 1950s, and an important figure in history.
In 1996, Evita was made into a movie starring Madonna as the title character. When they filmed in Argentina, Madonna stood in the same place the real Evita once stood as she gave her famous speech. For the musical, the speech becomes the song "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina." In interviews, Madonna said she felt a real connection to the history when she filmed that scene. The movie won an Academy Award in 1997 for the song "You Must Love Me." That song did not appear in the original play; it was written especially for the movie.
Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the musical Evita, which, like Jesus Christ Superstar,has almost no spoken dialogue. This was considered European-style musical theater, different from the earlier musical comedies of America. Evita was the beginning of a huge series of successes for Andrew Lloyd Webber, who also wrote Cats, based on the poetry of T. S. Eliot, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, based on a biblical story.
Three or more players
This game will help you create a historical musical by creating scenes and/or songs. As you choose metaphors and act them out, your characters will really come to life.
Choose an event in history you would like to act out in a musical. Make a list of all the important characters in your musical. Now you're ready to use metaphors to help flesh out your characters.
A metaphor is when one object or phrase is used in place of another object or phrase to show the similarities between the two. In this game you'll use objects that remind you of or are similar to your character to help flesh him or her out. For example, you might say George Washington was like a tree because he was strong and grounded in the roots of America. Or, you might say Pocahontas was like the sun because she was warm, bright, and nurtured the earth. It's OK if you're not exactly sure why you choose your metaphor, as long as it reminds you of your character.
Walk around your acting space, then slowly become your metaphor. For example, the actor playing George Washington might plant his feet and spread his arms out like branches. Next, humanize your object; that is, let your object take on human characteristics. For example, the actor playing George Washington should become a human tree. Figure out how the object might walk and talk if it could. Now hold on to that feeling and become your character, preserving all the characteristics of the object.
Excerpted from Show Time! by Lisa Bany-Winters. Copyright © 2000 Lisa Bany-Winters. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
The History of Musical Theater,
A Performer Prepares,
I Got Rhythm,
An Actor's Life for Me,
Suggested Musicals for Young Actors,
Summaries of Plays Mentioned in the Book,
About the Author,